5 Vegetarian Recipes for Cinco de Mayo

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Cinco de Mayo will be here next week. Do you know what you’re making for dinner yet? Nah, me neither.

Luckily, I consider tacos to be a major food group, so I have plenty of vegetarian taco and burrito recipes here on Vegology. I never grow tired of coming up with new combinations, and Kyle and I have some variation of tacos for dinner on a weekly basis. I love them so much that I cannot possibly convey to you how extremely excited I was the first time I was linked to by F*%$ Yeah Vegan Tacos. I have several taco recipes here under the tacos tag, and some other fun Mexican inspired recipes in this post to help you plan for your Cinco de Mayo celebration. The first five recipes are Vegology originals, then there is a bonus Serious Eats recipe at the end for elotes, which are my current obsession.

Enjoy!

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Try out these MexiKali wraps that add a healthy dose of leafy greens to your standard black bean burrito. Plus there is a onus recipe for my Chipotle-style cilantro lime brown rice in that post as well.

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Embrace Springtime and make a batch of Radish Salsa to tide you over until fresh tomatoes are in season. Serve with corn chips, pita chips, over tacos and nachos, or just eat it plain like a salad!

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These Cilantro Lime Seitan Tacos feature a great vegetarian meat substitute that, as the old cliché goes, “tastes just like chicken!”

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If you’re still experiencing winter weather and want to curl up with some fall and winter veggies, try these Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Sunchoke Hash. It is amazing how much grated and sautéed cauliflower can resemble meat when seasoned the right way.

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For a sweet and springy dessert, try these Strawberry Goat Cheese and Black Pepper Empanadas, which make for a unique and tasty end to your Cinco de Mayo meal.

Bonus recipe!

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My current obsession is Mexican street corn, and this recipe from Serious Eats is perfect! Make this one as soon as you can get your hands on some fresh corn this year. You will not regret it.

To see what I’m cooking this weekend (and to get sneak peek photos of test recipes like the grilled corn above), make sure you are following Vegology on Instagram and Twitter.

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How Melissa’s Produce Got Chile Peppers Into My Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I recently received an email from Melissa’s Produce, proclaiming that Hatch Chile Season is upon us! I had no idea what a hatch chile was, but already I was excited to find out. Within a few days, I had a box full of hatch chiles and a cookbook sitting on my desk, along with some information about this short-lived seasonal pepper. Because I had so much fun learning about and experimenting with these versatile peppers, I want to share my hatch chile experience with you.*

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Hatch chiles are grown in New Mexico and harvested for just a few weeks each year, in late August and early September. They range from mild to hot, and they taste best roasted, with their thick skins peeled off. I learned all of this while flipping through the cookbook in my office, when my coworkers asked me why I had a box of peppers sitting on my desk. I had the samples shipped to work, and consequently I left the office that day with just half the peppers in my possession. The other half went on to other experiments in five of my coworkers’ homes. I can only imagine that by now they have been grilled, roasted, stuffed, and chopped into a variety of dishes.

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A few local Kroger grocery stores partnered with Melissa’s Produce to host hatch chile roastings over the last two weeks, and I visited one last weekend to see the pepper roasting in action. There were samples of three heat levels to help shoppers decide which peppers to buy: mild, hot, and extra hot. The hot ones were my favorite, but a lot of people preferred the extra hots. While there, I saw several people buy whole cases of peppers and then have them roasted on-site for free. I opted to roast mine myself, in two batches. The first batch of mild peppers that were delivered for free, I roasted under the broiler in my oven. The second batch of hot peppers that I purchased at Kroger (for $1.40 per pound!), I roasted on a charcoal grill.

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After roasting, it is best to peel the peppers (with gloves!) to remove the skin and seeds, slice them, and freeze them for use over the next few months. Another way to experience hatch chiles in the off-season is to stock up on the hatch chile powder now, and then toss it in soups, stews, chili, and enchiladas into the fall and winter months. I froze six peppers after roasting and peeling, and I cooked with the rest, using the Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook.

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I could not believe how many great recipes were in this book, all using hatch chiles, and I was very glad to see that most of the recipes were vegetarian. The book covers all types of dishes, including breakfast, snacks, soups, stews, sides, entrees, desserts, and even beverages! I am looking forward to trying that hatch chile margarita!

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So far I have used the hatch chiles in black bean tacos and in chocolate chip cookies. I used the mild peppers in the cookies and couldn’t even taste them. The cookie recipe is seriously good – great flavor and consistency, not too soft, not too crunchy. However, next time I think I will use the hot chiles to balance the sweetness of the cookie because I was a little bummed that the cookies did not taste as weird as they sounded. The cookbook really opened my eyes to how versatile these peppers are, and I am glad that I stocked up when I did because I am looking forward to continuing to test recipes from the book and create more of my own.

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* I did receive a free box of hatch chiles and a cookbook when I expressed interest in learning more about the chiles and testing the recipes for my blog. As always, my opinions are all my own, and I never recommend a product without testing it first.

Seitan, Stripped

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Earlier today, I was standing in line in a local coffee shop, when I was tapped on the shoulder by one of my colleagues from work.

“Oh, hi there! Great to see you! What brings you to my neighborhood?”

We had a nice three minute conversation until it was my turn to order. On my way out, I met a member of my coworker’s family, wished them both a good day, and waved goodbye. As I walked away from the coffee shop, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a pane of glass. Then I came to the horrific realization that my tank top had slid down and about an inch of my zebra print bra was exposed. How long had it been that way? How many people had seen? Why do these things always happen to me?!

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I had been thinking all morning about what I was going to write about in my next blog post. With the humiliation of my unintentional striptease on my mind all afternoon, these seitan strips seemed like an appropriate topic.

I made these a couple of months ago, when Kyle decided he wanted to reduce the amount of soy in his diet. I cook with soy-based protein sources quite often, so his request required me to branch out a bit. As I struggled to put together the meal plan and grocery list that week, Kyle suggested that we cook with seitan. I’ve used the ingredient before, but I find that the pre-packaged seitan that is sold in stores tends to be high in sodium, so I’ve shied away from it.

A little research taught me that it’s a very high protein food, so I determined that it was worth investigating further. I quickly discovered that seitan is easy to make at home, where you can control the amount of sodium, with just a few ingredients. Most of the salt comes from the broth that it’s cooked in, so I searched for a low sodium vegetable broth and a few more essential ingredients, then I got to work. My stripped-down version has just the ingredients I want in my seitan, and nothing more.

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The basic recipe includes vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, water, liquid aminos or soy sauce, oil, broth, and seasonings. I made mine in a slow cooker according to this recipe from the Cathe’s Kitchen blog.

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The dough for the seitan comes together pretty quickly, then it gets dropped in a slow cooker bath of broth, onions, garlic, and herbs to simmer for a few hours. This time of year, when it starts to get pretty hot outside, I am a big fan of slow cooking to keep my kitchen cool.

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The seitan loaves look kind of creepy when they come out. I think my first batch had too many air bubbles, but I’ll get the texture down with some practice.

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The loaves freeze and defrost really well, so I recommend that you make a big batch. When you are ready to serve them, simply cut into slices or strips and cook them like you would chicken cutlets. If you want to simmer them in a sauce, it is best to brown them in a pan first, which makes the texture less spongy.  My favorite way to prepare them so far has been to marinate and grill them. I have only done them on the George Foreman indoor grill, but I am looking forward to getting them on my charcoal grill this summer.

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The strips are delicious when marinated in cilantro and lime, grilled to perfection, then stuffed into warm tortillas with roasted poblanos, corn and tomato salsa, and avocado.

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Whether you are looking for a way to prepare store-bought seitan strips, or you are experimenting with your own homemade version, this taco recipe is a simple introduction to seitan. The marinated and grilled strips are also great in sandwiches and on salads. I tossed them with some toppings over rice to bring to work for lunch, and they even tasted great reheated in the microwave.

Cilantro Lime Seitan Strips

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb plain seitan (store bought or homemade), sliced into strips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon agave syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, agave, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Spread seitan strips in a shallow baking dish. Cover with marinade.
  3. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove seitan from marinade and grill for 6 minutes on each side, or until dark grill marks appear. Brush with marinade while grilling if desired.
  5. Serve hot. Stuff into warm tortillas, sandwich between two slices of bread, or place on top of rice or a salad. Cover with desired toppings and enjoy!

Stay cool and have a great week!

Farmers’ Market 08.18.12 and Food Truck Court

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When Saturday’s South of the James Market rolled around, Chef Sam Baker was unfortunately sick and unable to do the cooking demonstrations for the day. While Sam rested at home, I got the rare opportunity to explore the market on my own this week! At first I was bummed that we wouldn’t be doing a demo, but I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot while perusing the market without an agenda. I think Kyle appreciated the company while shopping this week too.

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Peppers and tomatoes were everywhere this week, with tons of zucchini and squash too. The humidity dropped in the morning and it was a cool, breezy walk to the market around 7:30 AM. I wore a long sleeved chambray shirt with shorts and it seriously felt like fall was around the corner. My suspicions were confirmed by a tub of butternut squash at the Walnut Hill Farms produce stand. I am so excited that my favorite season is coming soon! And with my favorite season comes our wedding in. . . two months!

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We ran into a bunch of friends at the market. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. I ended up really enjoying the break, but I am looking forward to starting the cooking demonstrations again next week. Here is a rundown of our loot, pictured above:

  • Basil from Victory Farms (big plans for this…)
  • Tomatoes from Walnut Hill Farm
  • Bell peppers from Norma’s Produce
  • Jalapenos from Victory Farms
  • Eggplant from Walnut Hill Farm
  • Poblano peppers from Norma’s Produce
  • Okra from Pleitez Produce
  • Zucchini from Pleitez Produce
  • Butternut squash from Walnut Hill Farm
  • Onions from Pleitez Produce

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In case you were wondering, this week’s produce photo shoot took place at Forest Hill Lake, a gorgeous place for taking pictures of your vegetables, among other things. We are so fortunate to have this right in our backyard.

Speaking of backyards, we visited our old neighborhood on Friday night to check out the food truck court at the Virginia Historical Society. It was Kyle’s first time to the food truck court and he loved every bite!

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It was an eating marathon for us. I was so happy that we showed up with appetites because there was a lot of great food to be had.

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One of the highlights was this delicious plate of tacos from Rooster Cart. We had both had their sandwiches before but had never tried the tacos. They were incredible. We shed a sad tear in memory of our beloved Café Gutenberg and a happy tear for the future of the Rooster Cart.

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Another highlight was our first King of Pops experience. I told Kyle all about how I had been meaning to try them but never got over there during the farmers’ market. Kyle was skeptical of how amazing a simple popsicle could be, but he agreed to give it a try. I was really surprised when we approached the cart and Kyle greeted Paul from King of Pops like an old friend.

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Apparently Kyle and Paul go to the same Wing Chun Kung Fu studio. So if you’re thinking about messing with the King of Pops, I suggest that you think twice. Not only is he a magnificent popsicle maker; he is also a deadly weapon in disguise.

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I had a little sore throat and these popsicles were the perfect cure. Kyle had the tangerine basil, and I had the (wildly popular) chocolate sea salt. All I can say is WOW. Of course I tried both because Kyle and I are gross in that we swap spit and share popsicles and such. I wanted to try every flavor. I asked to help create flavors. I almost demanded a front row seat during R&D for the fall flavor creation process. It’s safe to say we are now believers.

I hope you had an equally life-transforming and wonderful weekend! If not, make it a delicious week!

Check out Richmond food truck courts here: FoodTruckCourt.com

… and Richmond farmers’ markets here: RVA Markets

Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Sunchoke Hash

I recently discovered sunchokes in the produce section of Ellwood Thompson’s on Manager’s Special, which meant they were half off. I have wanted to experiment with sunchokes for awhile, but they are a little expensive to risk screwing up. But at 50% the normal price, you would have bought them too, right?

Their name sounds like artichokes, they look like ginger, but they taste like potatoes. Except they taste better than potatoes, nutty and a little sweet, like Yukon Golds with personality. Not sweet like sweet potatoes, just a little sweet. This may sound a little confusing, but try to stay with me. It gets better but only after it gets a little worse.

Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, are native to North America, not Jerusalem. Also confusing, I know. They are related to the sunflower plant, and the edible part of the sunchoke is the knobby little tuber that grows below the flowering plant. So that clears up the name a little. But why the misleading alias “Jerusalem Artichoke?”. I suppose aliases, by nature, are misleading. . . but that is neither here nor there. There are a few different theories out there, but this one is my favorite. In Spanish, the word for sunflower is girasol. In Italian, girasole. See where this is going yet? Presumably, Italian settlers in North American called the plant “girasole,” a name which, like a lot of words with confusing etymologies, was butchered over time and ended up “Jerusalem.”

Who knows how? Not me. I was more interested in the taste anyhow.

I found a lot of recipes for sunchokes in soups and purees online, and several people recommended that you simply roast the sunchokes. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare any new vegetable, as roasting has never failed me in the past. However I had a new cast iron skillet that I was obsessed with so I wanted desperately to saute them. In others’ recipes they were paired with cauliflower a lot, for some unknown reason, so I decided to go with it. And that is how I came up with spicy cauliflower tacos with sunchoke hash.

Did you hear me?

A new vegan taco “meat”!

And nutty, earthy, spicy-sweet sunchoke hash!

The tacos worked. So much that I will probably pay full price for the sunchokes next time. And so much that I want to share the recipe with you. If you don’t eat meat (or even if you do), I think you should have this cauliflower taco “meat” in your repertoire.

I simply diced the sunchokes and threw them in the skillet with some oil and diced peppers and onions over medium heat. I stirred occasionally and the skillet did the rest. Then into tortillas they go, with cauliflower taco “meat,” shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. For vegan tacos, use vegan cheese and tofutti sour cream, or top with tomato salsa and mashed avocado with lime.

Spicy Vegan Cauliflower Taco “Meat”

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 pinches ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Break the cauliflower into pieces and either grate into a large bowl or crumble with your fingers for a more rustic feel. Break or grate into small crumbles.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add cauliflower crumbles to skillet and, while stirring constantly, saute until golden brown.
  4. Add chili powder to the skillet and stir to combine. Cook for one minute then add remaining spices and tomato paste. Stir to combine, turn heat to low-medium and cover. Cook for a few more minutes, until cauliflower is tender and heated throughout.

How to Fire Roast on a Gas Stove

Guess what? Tacos are better with fire roasted poblanos.

And they’re even better when you’ve roasted the peppers yourself! DIY fire roasting can be achieved with a broiler or a gas stove. I recently learned how to do this over a gas stove, and it is really easy and fun. Maybe it is my lifetime love of science and playing with Bunsen burners, or maybe it is my fascination with new cooking techniques, but I’ve got a fever. And the only prescription is more fire roasting.

First, a disclaimer, which has nothing to do with fire safety. It’s my stove. I rent an apartment in a really old building (89 years old to be exact) and the kitchen has really old appliances. My stove is ugly, with indelible burn marks everywhere. No amount of Method cleaner, degreasing stovetop cleaner, or Bar Keeper’s Friend can clean this baby up. So we deal with it, and now you will too. Because here it is in all its glory.

Aging ungracefully

The first step to fire roasting your peppers is slicing them in half, deseeding them, and placing them directly on the burner of your gas stove. Turn the heat up to high and hold the pepper with fire-proof tongs. Or non-fire-proof tongs (but be careful). Just make sure your tongs can withstand the heat and they won’t melt everywhere. Grilling tools are ideal.

The skin will start to get brown and, in some spots, black and bubbly. Turn the pepper periodically so that it gets charred evenly over the flame, for about 8 minutes. When the skin is brown and blistering all over (yum!) remove the pepper from the flame and repeat the process for all remaining peppers. If you get really good at this, you can have multiple burners going at once.

Next, place your peppers in a large plastic bag with a zipper seal.

This will steam the hot peppers and make it easier to remove the skin. After 5 minutes, remove them from the bag and the skin should peel right off. From here you can chop, slice, dice or stuff them for your favorite recipe.

One option is to keep the burners fired up to warm some tortillas. Corn tortillas are fantastic when heated over an open flame.

It takes just a minute or two per side to get fresh corn tortillas warm and slightly charred. I’m telling you, now that I know how to do it I dream about what I can fire roast next! This is how I made the roasted poblano and spicy black bean tacos for the vegetarian beer dinner that I created earlier this month.

1. Poblanos: First, fire roast your poblano peppers using the method described above, and slice the peppers into strips. See all the little charred bits? Delicioso.

2. Black Beans, Chili powder, Cumin: Next, add 1 Tbsp oil to a saucepan over low-medium heat and add black beans (canned or dry and soaked). Stir for two minutes, then add chili powder and cumin to the pot. The amount depends on your personal preference. Cook for about 5 minutes just until the beans start to get pasty and then take them off the heat.

3. Sour cream, Lime, Cilantro: Then add 1 Tbsp lime juice and a palmful of chopped fresh cilantro to 1/2 cup of sour cream. Stir to combine.

4. Tortillas: Warm some corn tortillas over the flame on a gas stove, or in the microwave between 2 damp paper towels for 30 seconds, or wrapped in foil in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

5. Additional Toppings: I shredded some cheddar cheese and pulled the Chipotle Tabasco out of the refrigerator. Other toppings ideas include: steamed corn, pico de gallo, roasted diced potatoes, or sriracha sauce.

6. Assembly: Fill the warm corn tortillas with beans, peppers, and additional toppings, and top with a dollop of the cilantro lime sour cream, for a super roasted Mexico-inspired dinner.

Once you try this technique, you might get hooked. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Farmers’ Market 08.28.10

This morning was one of those mornings that encourages notions of invincibility. I climbed out of bed one hour before my alarm went off. The sunlight streamed through my large bedroom windows and warmed me up before my feet even touched the shaggy blue rug beside my bed. Feeling the bright light on my face, I reached for the fake Ray-Bans on my bedside table instead of my prescription glasses: instantly cool. As I made my way through the apartment, the cat wove figure-eights around my ankles and I did not fall. Today I could rule the world, if I so desired.

However all I desired this morning was a cold cup of iced coffee from Black Hand and a stroll through the SOTJ market. Since I missed the market last weekend due to a very long day trip, I had looked forward to this morning for the last 7 days (at least). And when I woke up today with no obligations or plans to do anything at all, the possibilities overwhelmed me. I wanted to tackle the laundry, build our flat-packed DIY furniture, organize the entire apartment, change my own oil, climb Mount Everest, run for President. . . go to the South-of-the James Market.

And perhaps my zeal resulted in a ridiculously large purchase of local fruits and vegetables.

Wowzers! Go-Go-Gadget Santoku!

It’s OK. I will find a way to use all this food. I am Wonder Woman. By the way, this is how far $32 goes at the farmer’s market. In case you were wondering.

  • Black pepper linguine from Bombolini (I know, we’re addicted)
  • Giant cucumber
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Basil
  • Bell peppers
  • White and yellow peaches
  • Asian pears
  • Slicing tomatoes
  • Sungold tomatoes
  • Purslane
  • Okra

Think I might have been making up for last week?

Kyle and I also grabbed a snack from the Boka Tako truck. I have read a lot of good things about Boka Tako, and while I am a devoted fan of Nate’s Taco Truck, I have been dying to give this one a try. They offer fusion tacos and the customized concept is neat: the customer chooses the meat and the style and the guys at Boka Tako throw it together. Here is today’s menu (click to enlarge):

We wanted to try the tofu tacos in these two styles:

Asian – kimchi, sesame, herbs

Mexican – habanero-lime, chipotle crema, cheese

Unfortunately, when we got there they had just run out of tofu. I had seen the prep that went into some other customers’ tacos and all the delicious looking toppings and sauces and I thought, who needs the protein? I just want to try the stuff. I asked them to make me the two tacos with no tofu, just the toppings. They looked at me kind of funny and then shrugged and offered me the tofu-less tacos at a discounted price. They also threw in a third taco in the remaining style:

American – BBQ, sherry slaw, cheese, caramelized onions.

Score!

Might not be very healthy, but oh my was this delicious! Verdict: a mi me gustan estos tacos. We will definitely return, and next time it will be early enough to get the tofu. Or not. Either way, muy sabrosa.

After we left the market, I channeled my energy (and general feeling of invincibility) toward even more productive and superheroic activities. Activities that were so impressive that they deserve their own post.

Can you guess what metaphorical mountain I climbed today?

Hint: It was not Mount Everest. I said “metaphorical.”